The Magdalene Reliquary (Magdalene #2), by Gary McAvoy

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having long been a fan of novels with Catholic and/or historical twists, I thoroughly enjoyed Gary McAvoy’s debut book in this series when I read it a few months ago. Now, with the sequel ready for publication, I eagerly accepted a copy to see how the adventure would continue. A new relic is hidden, news of scandalous proportions awaits, and a man is out to avenge the death of his father. All this and more in a single book. Perfect for readers who loved the first book or are searching for something thrilling!

Father Michael Dominic has been enjoying his work as Prefect of the Secret Archives within the Vatican, dealing with some of the most sensitive documents the Church has in its possession. When he is asked to help with a research project, Dominic collects some old manuscripts and uncovers a 13th century puzzle that could be highly important.

After consulting his friend, Swiss journalist Hana Sinclair, Dominic realises what he’s got in his possession. It’s a map of a cave that is said to possess a valuable reliquary once owned by Mary Magdelene. Eager to see it for himself, Dominic convinces two members of the Swiss Guard to accompany him as they troll through the cave.

Unbeknownst to Dominic, his safety may soon be in jeopardy. Recently banished Cardinal Dante has a bone to pick with Dominic, who cost him the prized position of Vatican Secretary of State. Dante reveals that Dominic was involved in a raid that cost a powerful Croat his life. Now, the man’s son seeks revenge and is happy to destroy Dominic any way we can. Ivan Gović learns of Dominic’s cave adventure and plans to kill the priest while collecting the reliquary for himself.

While Dominic and his crew head to France to follow the map’s direction, Dante begins plotting his own return to power by blackmailing the one man who stands in his way. What Dante learns will not only shock the upper ranks of Vatican membership, but could ruin a man’s life as well. With little regard for anyone else, Cardinal Dante makes his move and waits for the dominoes to fall.

Inside the cave, Dominic retrieves the reliquary and notices an important message on its side; one that could change the face of Christianity. However, before he’s able to leave the cave, Gović and his henchmen arrive to collect the prize and seek to block the exit. With Dominic trapped in the cave, it could mean his end, once and for all.

News of the reliquary causes a stir in certain circles, especially once the contents are verified. Gović is sent on a final mission that could earn him great financial wealth, but it will not be as easy as it seems.

With pure determination, Dominic finds a way out of the cave, but still needs to get his hands on the reliquary before it can be sold off and hidden away anew. It will take much grit and determination to find Gović and ensure these secrets do not end up in the wrong hands. It’s a race across Europe and no one is entirely sure where they’re headed next!

Gary McAvoy has not only a great deal of skill when it comes to writing, but also knows how to spin a tale that will keep the reader wanting to know more. Mixing history, religion, politics, and science, McAvoy has crafted a thrilling piece of fiction that just may have some degree of reality buried in the narrative.

Michael Dominic plays a key role in this piece, serving as the quasi-protagonist. His determination to help uncover secrets is like no other. While the first book dealt with a lot of his backstory, there is a degree of that past that emerges in this piece as well. His focus on the prize, the reliquary, drives him throughout the book, though he remains clueless to some of the outside forces that seek to shape him. The interactions between Dominic and Hana Sinclair are obvious to the reader, but seem to fly over the head of the young priest, at least outwardly.

Hana Sinclair heads up a group of strong supporting characters in this piece. She remains determined to uncover the truth no matter what, using her skills and grit to stay one step ahead of everyone else. A number of other characters work well with the various subplots that emerge in the piece, all of which develop independently before coming together in the final pages. McAvoy does a wonderful job of populating his novel with credible characters, all of whom have their own missions.

When it comes to religious thrillers, there are times when the reader must suspend belief and go with what is being presented. McAvoy’s plot delves less into the biblically fanciful and deals primarily with what might actually happen. His story builds throughout and stays relatively plausible, keeping the reader guessing. There are aspects of politics and science, both of which are handled effectively, as well as portions that are straight thrills, perfect for the reader who wants an adventure. I am eager to see where McAvoy wants to take his novels from here, as he writes in such a way that the reader can never get enough. I suppose we’ll have to wait, but I know it will be worth it!

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another stellar novel. Your gift of suspense does not go unnoticed and I hope others are as captivated as I was throughout this experience.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Magdalene Deception, by Gary McAvoy

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Gary McAvoy for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always a fan of novels with Catholic and/or historical twists, this book by Gary McAvoy caught my eye as soon as I found it. Michael Dominic grew up in United States, without a father but under the watchful eye of one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church. Having finished his seminary studies and been ordained, Dominic accepted a position within the Vatican as a researcher, where he was able to hone some of his other interests in medieval history. When he trips upon a cache of old documents, he hides them away from prying eyes in hopes of exploring them a little more, only to discover that they are written in quatrain form and speak of some fairly significant things. After speaking to a superior, Dominic meets a Swiss reporter, Hana Sinclair, who has travelled to the Holy See in order to follow a story from a Nazi-era interaction with the Vatican Bank. While their work is not necessarily complementary, Dominic and Sinclair find themselves in the middle of a third mystery, one centred in rural France where a priest was blackmailing the Vatican with a set of documents in his possession, back before the turn of the 20th century. Travelling there, Dominic is being tailed by a powerful enforcer who seeks to obtain the documents to uncover what is going on while trying to strengthen a Croatian political and religious order. When Dominic receives the document, he is able to translate them and discovers a secret from two thousand years ago, one that would truly rock the Church to its core. With a killer on his trail and needing to ensure the document is preserved, Dominic returns to the Vatican, only to find that he and Hana may have caused a major panic. A great thriller that weaves numerous storylines together effectively. Recommended to those who love a good thriller worth historical implications, as well as the reader who enjoys Vatican and Catholic politics.

There’s something about biblical revelations set against a fictional thriller that pulls me in every time. Be it the history or the politics of what entered the narrative of the biblical teachings, there is something there and loads of mystery behind what did not make it. McAvoy creates a wonderful story that never stops building throughout. His protagonist, Michael Dominic, comes from humble beginnings, but is never one to let that get him down. He finds ways to work within his limits and find true passion for all he enjoys doing, without needing to focus on the solitary of life as a priest. His grit and determination is on show here and keeps the reader connected to him throughout. Other characters offer some wonderful flavour to the overall narrative and keep things exciting, amongst all the twists and revelations. McAvoy captures the secrecy and deep-rooted history of the Vatican and its politics throughout this piece, with a strong story and plot that moves in many directions. While there is the inherent biblical document that is revealed, there is not too much of a focus on its gnostic or apocryphal nature, but more that it adds new depths to the narrative of the Church’s past decisions on how to portray the Christian story. With a mix of longer and short chapters, McAvoy pulls the reader in and keeps them guessing, while also refusing to place a damper on the action. Juggling modern and ancient Church issues, McAvoy does not lose his reader at any point, as his writing is so clear that the attentive reader will likely want more. I look forward to more by the author, with Michael Dominic or others in the protagonist’s seat.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for this wonderful book. This may have been the first of your books that I have read, but it will not be the last.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons